Game 155: BAL vs. NYY — Flailing bullpen denies Yankee sweep

In this final home game of the 2018 season, the Yankees were looking to close it out on an upswing. And for a good chunk of the afternoon, it looked like it was going to go that way in this final game against the visiting Orioles.

JA Happ had a good start, throwing 107 pitches in his 5 innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and a run, and striking out an impressive 7 batters. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo home run in the 2nd. Happ then held off the Orioles for the rest of his time on the mound.

And the Yankee batters gave him in enough to work with. In the 1st, the starter came off the mound after 4 pitches due to a blister issues. His replacement triggered an offensive show by the home team, loading up the bases with 3 consecutive walks. Gleyber Torres’ sacrifice fly (no media clip, sorry) scored McCutchen, Miguel Andujar’s single scored Stanton, and Gary Sanchez’s 2-out single scored Voit.

But then the Yankees didn’t do much more for the rest of the game. So the Yankee defense and pitchers needed to defend their slim lead. AJ Cole came on in relief of Happ in the 6th and just fumbled out of the gate. He gave up a double, a 2-run home run, and a solo home run to put the Orioles into the lead.

So the Yankees turned to Tommy Kahnle. He gave up a double that moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a sacrifice fly to add one more run for the O’s. Luis Cessa came on in the 7th and calmed things down a bit. But after some defensive switches in the 8th, he gave up a 1-out single that scored on a 2-out double to cap off the Orioles’ scoring today.

The Yankee bats never did awaken again this afternoon, an odd exception to the Orioles’ poor show by their bullpen this weekend. But baseball isn’t predictable.

Final score: 6-3 Orioles, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees are headed down to Florida to start their final week of this season with 4 games against the Rays before heading to Boston for 3 games at Fenway to conclude the season. The Yankees need to keep ahead of the Athletics in the standings if they want to keep home field advantage for the Wild Card game.

As I write this, the A’s are losing to the Twins. They have a fairly easy schedule against the Mariners and Angels to close out their season next week. So it really could go down to the wire for home field advantage in the AL Wild Card just like the NL is still a giant question mark for the postseason. And honestly, it kind of makes this last week of baseball all the more fun. Every game counts for something. Every moment matters.

Injury news: Getting lost in the fracas during yesterday’s win, it looks like Didi Gregorius tore cartilage in his right wrist in that slide home to score the winning run in the 11th inning. He had an MRI, where they found the tear, and a cortisone shot for treatment. Right now, they’re waiting to see how he responds to the shot. But if he doesn’t, he could be out for the rest of the season. Fingers crossed for speedy healing to the Emoji King.

Go Yankees

Game 154: BAL vs. NYY — Welcome to Fall Ball!

It’s the first official day of Fall, and the Yankees are going to the Postseason. All is right with the world. With their win today and the Rays’ loss, the Yankees winnowed their magic number from 2 yesterday to 0 tonight. Though the Yankees certainly had to battle their way to that win.

Lance Lynn got the start in the middle game of this weekend series against the Orioles. Lynn threw 93 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs (1 earned), and struck out 4 Baltimore batters. He gave up 2 singles in the 3rd. A passed ball moved the lead runner to 3rd and a throwing error allowed him to score. But quick moves by the defense got the next runner out at home.

Then in the 5th, a double tried to score on a single, but again the defense worked to keep him from adding to the score. Another single put runners on the corners, and another single successfully scored that lead runner. After giving up a walk, another great defensive move got the force out at 3rd to end the inning and get out of the jam.

After that, the Yankees called on the bullpen to keep the Orioles from adding to their score. Green, Chapman, Betances, and Britton each got an inning and came out strong, keeping the O’s at bay.

The Yankees got a head start on the offense in the 2nd. Aaron Hicks led off with a solo home run. Andujar then singled but was thrown out trying to make it a double. And it would be Luke Voit to power the 1st pitch he saw into a big solo home run. But the Yankees weren’t able to capitalize on much more for most of the game.

So, with the game tied, it went into extra innings. Holder amped up the drama in the 10th by loading up the bases but, thanks to a few great defensive moves, got out of the inning unscathed. Tommy Kahnle’s 11th inning kept the ball rolling tossing it back to the offense to do something, anything.

And they did. Didi Gregorius led-off with a double. And after a strikeout, Aaron Hicks stepped into the box. At one point, he hit a foul ball off his ankle. He kind of limped around a bit, as they tried to decide what to do with him. But he got back in and then smacked a solid double into the corner of left field, which scored Gregorius for the walk-off win and postseason clinch.

Final score: 3-2 Yankees, in 11 innings

It should be noted that with the clinching of the postseason spot today, it makes the 54th postseason appearance in the Yankees MLB history, dating back to 1901. Their first postseason appearance was in 1921, their first win in 1923. Of course, they would win it all 27 times, now hoping to win #28 this year.

The biggest statistic the Yankees have been their amazing home run record. For being known as the “Bronx Bombers”, it is only this year that they crack the MLB record into the teams with the most single season home runs. They currently rank 5th with 253 home runs, tied with the 2016 Orioles. This makes them just behind the 1996 Orioles (257), the 2010 Blue Jays (257), the 2005 Rangers (260), and the 1997 Mariners (264). They are just 11 from the lead with 8 games left in the season. Sounds like a fun goal to me.

Go Yankees!

Game 153: BAL vs. NYY — The Magic Number is 2

The countdown has begun for the postseason, and while the Yankees only need 2 more wins to secure their postseason appearance, they’re pushing for securing home field advantage in the Wild Card game. That means winning more games than the other potential WC opponent, the Athletics, who currently sit at just 1.5 games behind the Yankees.

CC Sabathia got the start in tonight’s opener against the Orioles for the final series at Yankee Stadium this season. He actually had a great outing, throwing 97 pitches in his 6 innings, gave up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out 5 Baltimore batters to eventually earn his 8th win of the season.

He actually held off the O’s until the 5th inning. He gave up a lead-off single, a 1-out walk, and a single to load the bases. And a 2-out single scored both runners to get the Orioles on the board.

The Yankees gave Sabathia enough room to work by striking first in the 1st. Hicks led-off with a walk, moved to 2nd on Judge’s single, ended up at 3rd on a double play, and then scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ 2-run home run.

And in the 4th, Walker hit a 1-out double and scored on Gleyber Torres’ single. Torres then stole 2nd and made it to 3rd on a passed ball, before scoring on Austin Romine’s ground out. Gardner worked a walk, and then Aaron Hicks hit a 2-run home run to push the Yankees’ lead further ahead. That ended the Orioles’ starter’s night, and they spent the rest of the game piecing together their bullpen.

Hicks led-off the 7th with a single and moved to 2nd when a new reliever gave up a walk to Judge. He then scored on Andrew McCutchen’s single. The Orioles snapped into action when Gregorius hit into a fielder’s choice and got Judge out at home. That also moved both remaining runners into scoring position, which allowed the powerhouse Luke Voit to single and score both of them. Then, in the 8th, with 2 outs, Hicks worked a walk and then scored a solid insurance run on Aaron Judge’s double.

Jonathan Loaisiga came on in relief of Sabathia in the 7th to start the Yankees’ major issues with tonight’s game. He promptly gave up a lead-off solo home run to start the O’s rally tonight. He then gave up a single that stole 2nd on a strikeout and then ended up at 3rd on a throwing error. Zach Britton came on to try to stem the tied and gave up a single to score that runner from 3rd before getting out of the inning without further damage.

In the 8th, Tarpley came in for just a strikeout and handed the game to AJ Cole. Cole then gave up a walk and a 2-run home run to add more to the O’s score. After an out, he then allowed a single and passed the ball to David Robertson. On his first pitch, he gave up a 2-run home run before finding that 3rd out. Betances’ came on for an efficient 11-pitch 9th inning to earn his 4th save thanks to those insurance runs by the Yankees in the 7th and 8th innings.

Final score: 10-8 Yankees

Aaron Hicks became the 5th Yankee with 25+ home runs this season, joining Stanton (35), Gregorius (27), Judge (26), and Andujar (25). This ties a franchise record set back in 2009 with 5 players having 25+ homers (Teixeira, Rodriguez, Swisher, Matsui, and Cano). They came close in 2010 with 4 players (Teixeira, Rodriguez, Swisher, and Cano) and the previous record was 1938 (DiMaggio, Gehrig, Dickey, and Gordon).

Now, the MLB record was set in 2003 by the Red Sox. But the Yankees are within range of tying that as Gleyber Torres has 23 home run, and there’s still 9 games left in the season. It’s worth noting the kind of company this makes the Yankees in and the fact that 2 of the Yankees in the conversation are rookies.

And the “magic number” is 2. The Yankees need 2 more game wins to secure their postseason spot. I said in a post earlier this month that the AL is pretty set, but the NL is going to go down to the wire. And it’s never more true than sitting just 9 days out from the final game of the season.

The AL division leaders have mostly clinched their spots (Red Sox and Indians), with the Astros just 3.5 games ahead of the Athletics but have clinched a spot in the postseason. And unless the A’s jump ahead of the Astros in the next few games, it’s pretty much a lock that the Yankees and Athletics will be the Wild Card opponents, with the Rays 6.5 games back and the Mariners 8.5 games back.

But the NL is still up for grabs in nearly every division. The strongest division is the NL East, with the Braves 7.5 games ahead of the Phillies. But the Central and West are just 1.5 games apart — Cubs over Brewers, Dodgers over Rockies. Plus, the Cardinals and Diamondbacks are just a few games beyond them. This league is going to go down to the wire.

Go Yankees!

Game 149: TOR vs. NYY — Dropped victory in the 8th inning

The Yankees needed an easy win to move forward and enter this final two weeks on an upswing. And things were looking good for most of the game, with the Yankees on the board first and defending their early lead for this final game against the visiting Blue Jays this weekend.

In the bottom of the 1st inning, Andrew McCutchen led things off with a big solo home run.  Stanton then walked, moved to 3rd on Hicks’ single, and then scored on Didi Gregroius’ sacrifice fly. It wasn’t much, but it gave the Yankees enough of a lead to kick off the game.

Lance Lynn actually had a pretty good start. He threw 80 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up just 3 hits, a walk, and 1 run, and struck out 7 Toronto batters. In the 3rd, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a ground out and then scored on a double to get the Jays on the board. But Lynn, and then Robertson for 2 innings, kept the Jays down to that lone run, defending their slim lead.

But then Dellin Betances struggled his way through the 8th inning. A lead-off single moved to 3rd on a 1-out single and then scored on a single to tie up the game. A double scored another run to put the Blue Jays in the lead before a fielder’s choice became a great defensive show, getting their insurance run out at home in a rundown.

Britton’s 13-pitch 9th inning reset the game with hopes for a last-minute rally that would ultimately fall short.

Final score: 3-2 Blue Jays, Blue Jays win the series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees have an off-day tomorrow before a series against the Red Sox and then one against the Orioles to wrap up the final home stand. The Yankees hit the road for the final time with 4 games at the Rays and the final 3 games in Boston to end the season. Where the postseason lands is still very much up for grabs, especially as

The Yankees plan to call up pitchers Justus Sheffield and Domingo German to help with their upcoming series against the Red Sox, starting Tuesday. They might have been called up for today’s game, but they both pitched in the RailRiders’ final game yesterday, losing to the Rays’ AAA team and their bid for their league’s championship.

Go Yankees!

Game 148: TOR vs. NYY — Falling just short of a comeback

After yesterday’s wipe-out of the Blue Jays, the Yankees certainly continued the dramatics in the middle game of the weekend series. CC Sabathia got the start tonight and after a quick 3 outs in the 1st got roughed up for the rest of his brief outing this afternoon. He threw just 50 pitches into the 3rd, gave up 7 hits and 5 runs, and struck out only 2 batters.

In the 2nd, Sabathia gave up a lead-off solo homer on the 1st pitch to get the Blue Jays started. With 1 out, the next batter singled (as it was deemed after an overturned challenge), moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, then to 3rd on a single, and scored on another single. After another out, another single scored the lead runner for another Toronto run.

Then with 1 out in the 3rd, Sabathia gave up consecutive solo home runs to call an end to his afternoon. Chad Green was called on to replace him and started keeping things in check, holding the Blue Jays scoreless into the 5th inning. And Holder closed out the 5th and threw a solid 6th inning to keep the momentum going.

The Yankees, meanwhile, were also being held off, mostly by the Blue Jays’ starter, who only gave up 2 hits in his 5 innings and struck out 10 Yankee batters. It wasn’t until the 6th that they broke the Jays’ stranglehold on the scoreboard. Didi Gregorius led-off the 6th with a solo home run into the right field seats, making this his 2nd consecutive season with 25+ home runs. Then despite loading up the bases, the Yankees left them stranded again, failing to capitalize on these easy opportunities to chip away at the Jays’ lead.

Tommy Kahnle came on for the 7th inning and struggled his way through, loading up the bases. A great play by the defense got the lead runner out at home on a ground out. After a great strikeout, Kahnle gave up a 2-RBI single to expand the Jays’ lead. He turned things over to Stephen Tarpley, who gave up a single to score one more run.

The Yankees found one more big chance to make an impact in the bottom of the 7th. Giancarlo Stanton liked the 1st pitch he saw and sent it deep into the left field seats for his 34th home run of the season.. After a pitching change and 1 out, Didi Gregorius again smacked a solo home run to edge the Yankees closer.

Another out later, Torres doubled, Walker walked, and another new reliever walked Voit to load up the bases once again. This time, Miguel Andujar made the difference — a big grand slam to put the Yankees within a single run.

Betances and Britton each gave up a 9-pitch inning to close out the game, waiting for the Yankee batters to pull a last-minute comeback rally. It was not going to happen today.

Final score: 8-7 Blue Jays

Yankee Universe encompasses much of this nation, being “America’s Team”. But recently, one of their farm teams found themselves in the path of a major disaster. Yesterday, Hurricane Florence made landfall along the Carolina coastline. The Charleston River Dogs, the Yankees’ Single-A minor league team, finished their season earlier this month. But so many people are still under the hurricane’s destruction as it lingers and creeps itself up the coast.

David Robertson’s foundation, High Socks For Hope, has a history of helping with disaster relief, like after tornadoes, Hurricane Harvey in Texas last year, and other major disasters in the southeastern U.S. Today, they announced that they will be accepting monetary and practical donations to help, if you would like to be generous.

Our prayers are with those still under the thumb of the hurricane and in its path.

Go Yankees!

Game 147: TOR vs. NYY — Big home blowout + #TanakaTime

Sometimes, it’s good to be back in your own surroundings. The fans in the stands are in familiar regalia, the cheers makes sense with the plays, the smells and sounds are just right. It’s part of why people put a lot of stock in “home field advantage”. Not because there’s anything particularly “lucky” about your home turf, but because players are familiar with how things work and that surrounding familiarity knocks out distractions and helps them focus on the game. At least, that’s my theory.

Tonight’s game rather supported that. Especially when you throw in an opposing team that is really having a string of so-called “bad luck” recently. And Masahiro Tanaka was on point in tonight’s weekend opener against the Blue Jays. He threw 90 pitches in 6 scoreless innings, gave up 4 hits and 2 walks, and struck out 8 Toronto batters to earn his 12th win of the season.

Luis Cessa continued Tanaka’s great start with 3 scoreless innings of his own, adding 4 more strikeouts. And according to the rules, he earned the save for pitching those final 3 innings. (Statistics are rather complicated sometimes.)

The Yankee batters, meanwhile, had quite the field day in the Bronx. Every starting player got at least 1 hit, and every starter either scored a run or hit a run in, though most did both. The Blue Jays’ pitchers just couldn’t figure out how to pitch to the hot Yankee bats tonight.

In the 1st, McCutchen led-off with a double, and Stanton walked. Aaron Hicks’ single scored McCutchen, and a late throw allowed both runners to move into scoring position. After an out, Didi Gregorius hit an easy grounder that allowed Stanton to score, and Gleyber Torres’ single scored Hicks. After Sanchez singled to join Torres on base, Luke Voit hit both of them home with his double.

With a solid lead, the Yankee hits kept coming. In the 3rd, Gregorius was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Voit later worked a 2-out walk. Brett Gardner’s single scored Gregorius and signaled the end of Toronto’s starter’s night. The new reliever loaded up the bases with McCutchen’s walk before giving up a single to Giancarlo Stanton that scored both Voit and Gardner.

Andrew McCutchen led-off the 5th with a solo home run (his 1st homer in Yankee Stadium ever, by the way), and Didi Gregorius followed his example with a lead-off solo shot in the 8th. Then, with 1 out in the 8th, Sanchez doubled and was pinch-run by Higashioka. Voit reached on a fielding error, moving Higashioka to 3rd. Then Brett Gardner hit a long fly ball out to center that scored Higashioka, but they ended up catching Voit off 1st for a delayed double play to end the inning.

Final score: 11-0 Yankees

Roster moves: Good news, Yankee Universe! Today, they activated Aaron Judge from the Disabled List. His wrist’s chip fracture is healed to the point where he could come into tonight’s game late to run and play defense, but he’s not going to be hitting just yet. They want that 100% swing back without any residual pain from the power-hitter before they pencil him in the lineup. But take today’s activation as a good sign of progress.

And earlier today, the kids at PS 71 in the Bronx were treated to a fun surprise. The PitCCh In Foundation, founded by CC and Amber Sabathia, hosted a special event to celebrate the beginning of the school year. While CC was on “daddy duty”, Amber hosted Yankee stars Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks to have some fun with the local students (including a dance party with a live DJ) and hand out backpacks filled with school supplies to help the kids start the new year right, much like they did last week in California (where the Sabathias grew up).

Gregorius also considered today’s outreach as part of his #DidisDeeds, his random acts of kindness campaign wherever he is, including in Toronto in July. These guys are just amazing in how they represent the Yankee spirit of excellence and character on and off the field.

In that spirit, Sabathia is the Yankees’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, an annual award to honor those players who embody excellence and character on and off the field. You can vote for Sabathia and read more about all the other nominees and how they’re impacting their communities.

Go Yankees!

Game 145: NYY vs. MIN — Big offense falls short against big offense

In a game where a team can make great defense plays and hit some major offense, it’s unfortunate when the other team can do the same, despite being below .500 and officially eliminated from the postseason. But the reality is that most teams under .500 aren’t there because they’re terrible (well, a few of them are). They’re having a losing season because they’ve been inconsistent.

Inconsistency will sink a team every time. They go through really terrible streaks at the worst possible times in the schedule, and hit those random highs in the weirdest times, usually against teams they should lose easily to. Let me also clarify that the Yankees have moments of inconsistency, but they have not been consistently inconsistent. It’s why they’re still very much in the postseason picture, though the A’s are just 2 games behind them now in the Wild Card race.

Sonny Gray was called on for a spot-start in this middle game against the Twins and had a tough go of it. He threw 63 pitches in his 3 innings, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs (2 earned), and struck out just 2 Minnesota batters. He did hold off the home team until the 3rd inning. He loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a single. A passed ball scored the lead runner and moved the other runners into scoring position, something they did on a 2-RBI single, before he got out of the inning.

Jonathan Loaisiga took over in the 4th, but even he had issues against the Twins. In the 4th, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a ground out and then scored on a 2-out double. But it would be the 5th inning that combined for the real blow to the Yankees tonight. Loaisiga loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a single before giving up another walk to score the lead runner and a 1-out single scored another.

So with bases loaded, Loaisiga responsible for all the base runners, it would be Tommy Kahnle to the mound in the relief. But a missed pitch became a monster home run grand slam over the center field wall to ensure the Twins’ eventual win. After a single, the Yankees’ defense kicked into gear and got a great double play to end this terrible inning.

Stephen Tarpley had the best outing of the Yankee pitchers tonight, throwing 2 solid, scoreless innings. All the while, Yankee Universe was hoping for a bit of a late-inning comeback rally.

The Twins also pieced together their pitching staff tonight, matching the bullpen-heavy names on the Yankee pitching roster. But the Yankees made every effort to not just hand the victory to the Twins (despite what happened above). They got on the board first in the 2nd when Didi Gregorius hit a 1-out triple and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s sacrifice fly.

After the Twins’ big 5th inning, the Yankees had their own big inning in the top of the 6th. With 1 out, they loaded up the bases with Hicks, Andujar, and Stanton. The Twins went to their bullpen again, and the new pitcher promptly gave up a home run grand slam to Didi Gregorius, his 2nd career grand slam.

Riding high on that, the Yankee offense were looking to continue that momentum in a late-inning rally. It just never came. The Twins’ final 2 pitchers in the last third of the game kept the Yankees off the bases, thus away from their large lead.

Final score: 10-5 Twins

I would post about the status of the postseason. However, while the AL is a bit more clear-cut, with the biggest competition happening in the AL West, the NL picture is really competitive with 8 teams still competing for a wildcard spot, and 6 of those with a legitimate chance. The AL may be set soon as the final 2 weeks of games within the division approaches. But the NL is going to go down to the wire.

Finally, I want to once again recognize the lives and legacy of the men and women we lost 17 years ago on this day in New York, D.C. and Pennsylvania. We honor your memories again today and pray for your families as they continue to find their “new normal” with your daily absence. We will never forget.

Go Yankees!